Week 47: Koko Head Cafe

Koko Head Cafe 

1145 12th Ave C 

 Honolulu, HI 96816 

kokoheadcafe.com 

(808) 732-8920 

Instagram.com

Instagram.com

Hawaii received statehood in 1959, making it the most recent state in America. Its islands are steeped in Polynesian history, and offer an exotic reprieve from the mainlands fast-paced lifestyle. Would this tropical paradise even care for the comfort a warm pan of biscuits brings to so many? Were not going to lie. To nosh on a plate of scratch biscuits and gravy proved as likely as spotting a can of Spam at an island vegan convention. We dont grow wheat or process flour in Hawaii,” Dania Novack Katz, publisher of Edible Hawaiian Islands explained. This might explain the missing bevy of biscuit believers, but surely there was hope in tracking down a biscuit befitting the tradition of its people. This week, 50 States of Biscuits proudly presents poi as the secret to Chef Lee Anne Wongs biscuits at Koko Head Cafe in Honolulu, Hawaii.  

You may recognize Chef Wong from her outstanding performance as one of the final contestants on the first season of Bravos reality show, Top Chef. She went on to be their culinary producer for the next four seasons. A French Culinary Institute graduate and Executive Chef of Events Operations, Wong moved from the mainland in 2013, and opened Koko Head Cafe, an island style brunch house. I moved from the food capital of the world to a place where I often needed a soy sauce break,” 2nd Generation Chinese-American Wong remembers. This self-described culinary polyglot travels the world exploring cultures and flavors. Her attention to global detail shines in dishes such as Breakfast Bibimbap- bacon, Portuguese sausage, heritage ham, kimchi, soy-mirin shiitake mushrooms, on choy, seasme carrots and bean sprouts, sunnyside up egg, served over crispy garlic rice in a hot skillet, and Eggs Hāloa- poached eggs on poi biscuit, coconut luau, sour poi hollandaise, local greens. Breakfast is personal. People are repetitive about their menu choices. I wanted to make brunch exciting again,” Wong explains. 

Bimbimbap - Instagram.com

Bimbimbap - Instagram.com

To know the foundations of Chef Wong’s poi biscuits, one must first understand the story and significance of Hāloa. The source and beginning 

Click here to watch a video about Haloa! 

The base for Eggs Hāloa and Biscuits and Gravy is Wongs poi biscuit. This biscuit is one- of-a-kind, culturally and historically relevant,” she says of a biscuit rooted in Hawaiian heritage that shes particularly proud of. Chef continues by explaining the process, We source our organic kalo/taro product from a local kalo farmer and practitioner. We get it in the form of cooked koena (the first/outer layer of flesh from a steamed and peeled piece of taro root) similar to the flesh of cooked sweet potato. The koena has a lot of starch and sugar. From this, we freeze the koena completely, and then thaw it completely. This process helps to leech all of the water out of the koena, which we then dry and grind into flour. Because the kalo has natural bacteria and cultures that make it great for fermenting, the flour over time takes on an aged flavor very much like sour poi. The heart of the steamed kalo root is what is used to make pa'i'ai, which is the form of poi without water. We get our poi already made with water, and then it sours for a few days to develop flavor. We combine the koena flour and sour poi with other ingredients to make our poi biscuit.  

biscuits & gravy - instagram.com

biscuits & gravy - instagram.com

Taro is primarily used to make poi, and is considered by many Hawaiians lifes sustenance. Still, life as a taro farmer is relentless. Natural calamaties mainlanders experience such as hurricanes and floods are no match for the taro farmer who also contends with muddy agricultural conditions which are far-removed. To top if off, the financial yields are quite low. Small scale farmers are breaking their backs to grow delicious food,” Wong says, which is why were 100% committed to supporting small farms.” Wong reports that upwards of 70% of her food budget is allotted for her neighboring farms. She enjoys working with the island food co-op, Adaptations, Inc., where their mission is to engage in ecologically sound community and land development based on organic farming. Even though Hawaii is a unique, pristine micro biosphere, its economy was built on mono crops such as pineapple and sugar cane. In supporting diverse agriculture, chefs like Wong are doing their part to assure a sound future for their food systems. 

 

 

While most Americans' access to taro and poi is extremely limited, the Vanilla Sea Salt Cream Biscuit at Koko Head intrigues a more familiar palate. Made with Hawaiian vanilla bean, Alaea sea salt, and cream, this fragrant biscuit is served warm with a house-made honey butter. Chef is currently serving butter made with Christmas berry honey, but she changes the honey often, sometimes using lehua, or macadamia nut. Then theres the house jam using local organic fruits such as gooseberry, tangerines, Surinam cherries, lilikoi, mango, and jaboticaba, otherwise known as Brazilian grape. It may be winter on the mainland, but who would know with these island delights? Wong shares her biscuit recipe that home cooks will find accessible, regardless of terroir.  

 

Vanilla Sea Salt Cream Biscuit 

By Chef Lee Anne Wong 

yields 12 biscuits 

vanilla sea salt biscuit - instagram.com

vanilla sea salt biscuit - instagram.com

Ingredients 

4 c all-purpose flour 

4 tbsp baking powder 

3 tbsp granulated sugar 

1 tsp salt 

3 c heavy cream plus extra for wash 

1 tsp vanilla paste or extract 

1 beaten egg 

Sea salt for finishing 

 

Method 

Preheat oven to 375°. Blend dry ingredients. Mix vanilla with cream, before stirring into dry ingredients. Let sit for 3 minutes for moisture to soak up dry ingredients. Pat, but do not knead, until dough forms. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface, cut dough in half, stack the halves on top of each other, and repeat process four times to create layers. The final rolling should be 1.5 inches thick. Cut into to 12 equal squares. Brush with egg and cream wash. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake at 375 ° for 12-15 minutes.  

We’d like to wish Chef Wong a big Mahalo nui loa” for a look inside her idea of paradise. Like her biscuit recipe? Pick up a copy of her cookbook Dumplings All Day Wong for a bit of a biscuit break. Thanks to Nadine Kams 2014 video of Chef Wongs dumpling demonstration.  

 


 Written by Melissa D Corbin

Corbin is a Nashville-based freelance food and travel journalist. Shes also the founder of Corbin In The Dell, a company connecting those who care where their food comes from through content development and strategies that matter. Follow her on instagram @melcorbin and twitter @mdcorbin.  

 

Week 46: Krazy Kat's Restaurant

Quirky Charm Shines at Historic Institution

Krazy Kat’s Restaurant – Wilmington, Delaware

By Barbara Booras

Soon after emigrating from France in the early 1800s, the Du Pont family established a riverside gunpowder mill on the fringe of Wilmington, Delaware. Comprised of eleven homes built from 1790 to the early 1900s, the tightly nestled buildings housed mill workers. Today, Montchanin Village, where the mill was situated, is home to an inn, spa, and restaurant.

Owners, Nancy (Missy) and Dan Lickle, live on the grounds of Montchanin Village. Missy, a seventh generation descendent of Anne Alexandrine de Montchanin, for whom the village was originally named, is still actively involved in operations.

What was once a former blacksmith shop on the property has evolved into a fine dining restaurant run by Executive Chef Joe Johnson. “When they first opened this place it was mobbed all the time,” explained the chef, on board for six years. The owners typically advertise minimally, if at all. “Everything is word of mouth here and after over 20 years, we’re still busy. That’s pretty impressive,” Johnson proudly shared.

The restaurant, whose doors first opened in 1996, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, an astounding 365 days a year. Their busiest times of year undeniably surround the holidays and the clientele consists mostly of locals and inn guests.

The unconventional name of the restaurant derives its origins from a peculiar previous tenant of the blacksmith shop. Missy Lickle’s grandmother would refer to the resident as “one crazy cat.”

As Krazy Kat’s patrons pass through the gas-lit foyer, they are greeted by a portrait of the restaurant’s mascot, Le Chat Lunatique (The Crazy Cat). This gilded portrait of a feline draped in military regalia, is one of many that can be found adorning the restaurants walls. Accent pillows accompanying animal print furniture further add to the kitschy scheme. The quirky mascot sets the tone for an establishment that somehow straddles a line between both formal and befuddlingly charming.  

Beyond the restaurant’s decorative eccentricities, the rich history is palpable. Seemingly arbitrary metal rings along the dining room walls, beckon to a bygone era, where horses awaiting shoes, were once tethered. What was the original blazing blacksmith forge, is now the focal point of the main dining room, and is used as a fireplace during winter months. The hearth only adds to charm and warmth of the historic space. “Krazy Kat’s is almost an extension of [the Lickle’s] living room,” Johnson explained. “It’s a place where they can have friends and family and be able to offer that to everybody else out there.”

During breakfast, Chef Johnson whips up a small selection of morning classics along with an eclectic and ever-rotating twist on traditional biscuits and gravy. “I love working here because they actually let me have fun with the menu. You don’t get that everywhere.”

To make the biscuits, Chef Johnson uses what is referred to as a “laminating technique.” This preparation, more traditionally used for croissants, danishes and puff pastry, results in a light, flaky layered dough. The biscuit dough is carefully rolled out on floured surface, then folded into quarters and rolled again. This process is repeated multiple times to create voluminous layers.

This special “lamination” of the biscuit dough was, so the story goes, a trick pioneered by tahe former brunch chef at Krazy Kat’s that was later taught to Johnson. “I learned the process in culinary school but she helped me perfect it.” Although the previous chef would not share her original recipe with Johnson, the current version has become a creation of his own. Also unique to Johnson’s recipe is his addition of a personally crafted seasoning blend. “I feel like people are scared to add flavor [to biscuits]. I throw garlic and onion powder in there. If you want a biscuit that’s going to be really good, put some more flavor in it,” he stated matter-of-factly.

Currently, Krazy Kat’s biscuits and gravy incorporates both pork and duck sausage, wilted spinach, and crispy onion straws, atop a cheddar chive biscuit ($13). Distinct striations, a testament to the “lamination” process, mark each layer of the golden-puffed finished product flecked with chives. “Any place can serve biscuits and gravy. We add that little extra; something a little different but not so far out there where somebody won’t try it.” Johnson went on to describe his next concept, a New Orleans-inspired biscuits and gravy with hallmark ingredients of the creole cuisine, including alligator andouille sausage, shrimp, and crayfish.

When it comes to the menu, Chef Johnson executes his craft upon the foundation of a simple philosophy. “I always try and make sure that things are approachable. I could go wild but no one will order it.” While biscuits and gravy with alligator andouille sausage might not be wild by this chef’s standards it just might be a bit “krazy” for the less adventurous among us.

 

Cheddar Chive Biscuits

by Chef Joe Johnson

Krazy Kat’s Restaurant

Makes 12 Biscuits

What you need:

5 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional flour for rolling out dough

1/8 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 lb (16 ounces) unsalted butter, frozen and shredded

1 ½ cup buttermilk

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

¼ cup (2 oz) fresh chives, sliced

1 teaspoon powdered garlic

1 teaspoon powdered onion

1 egg

 

How to make it:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

Add frozen butter and cheddar cheese and mix throughout using a light hand to not melt butter.

Add cold buttermilk and mix by hand until all flour is incorporated.

Cover dough in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

Flour your table and rolling pin. Roll out dough to ¼ inch thick then fold dough in half and half again. Roll out again and repeat process five times to laminate the dough.

For your final roll, roll the dough to about 3/8 inch thickness and cut with 2 inch circle cutter.

Beat egg and brush egg wash on biscuits.

Bake for 12 minutes, rotate pan, and continue to bake for 4 additional minutes until golden brown.

Tips: Mix gently by hand. If while folding and laminating the biscuit dough it becomes difficult to roll out, set aside and let the dough rest for a five minutes, then continue.

 

Visit Krazy Kats’s Restaurant:

The Inn at Montchanin Village

528 Montchanin Rd

Montchanin, DE 19710

(302) 888-4200

www.krazykatsrestaurant.com

f www.facebook.com/RestaurantKrazyKats

@ twitter.com/innatmontchanin


Barbara Booras is a Boston native and freelance writer based in New York City. She works full-time in Sales for an all-natural Mediterranean-inspired importer and producer. In addition to being a lover of all things gastronomy, Barbara is an avid runner and recently completed her second NYC Marathon running with City Harvest, a local food rescue charity.

Week 45: Maple Street Biscuit Co

Sometimes, the world revolves around biscuits. Like every year at the International Biscuit Festival, every day at the biscuit office, or every day on a very specific street Maple Street.

In Florida, in the land of sunshine, back in 2012, a new restaurant was opened. Maple Street Biscuit Company, and the world they created, was born, winning the hearts and tummies of Florida. So, without further ado, the home of the Florida Biscuit!

So, let’s set this Florida stage. Back in 2012, Maple Street was just a concept dreamt up by co-owners Scott Moore and Gus Evans, two friends with no previous culinary experience but a dream to create something different. Something warm and traditional, like comfort food, but with something new. This inspired the three key values Maple Street operates with:

- Comfort Food with a Modern Twist

- Immaculately clean store

- Gracious Service

Comfort food is served fresh and hot in a comfortable environment with the friendliest of people. Not a bad foundation to build a biscuit empire on.

Maple Street and their biscuits is a born and bread product of this ingenuity, and five months of constant recipe tweaks. Because they knew it’s not just about a warm, flaky, maple, biscuit, BUT what goes inside of it. And inside everyone of Maple Streets biscuits is a community of people standing strongly behind them.

This idea of community is felt and seen as soon as you walk into one of Maple Street’s establishments. Each restaurant named so after the city it sits, and all the people sit in community style seating. The first moment you eat at Maple Street is the beginning of a beautiful friendship, because you’ll be back.

The community even extends to where the food is source, using quality ingredients, making most of them in house, and serving up some of the best locally roasted coffee Maple Street will turn you into a regular.

Their coffee is organic and locally roasted just for them on a weekly basis. It's ground each morning to maintain freshness. There are four coffees to choose from; dark bark, light amber, decaf, and (possible inspired by Buddy the Elf) maple tap.

And the community extends even further than their sources because new stores are added all of the time! But this is no chain, more like a group of community stores and headed by community leaders.

So, you may be wondering, how do you become a part of this community? It’s easy!

It all starts with you walking through the front door and answering two questions.

The first, what do you want to order? This may take a minute because there are just under twenty different biscuit options and the newly added menu item of jar salads (completed with a veggie biscuit created to compliment). Now, it would take us all day to go through the ridiculously mouth watering descriptions of each biscuit babe, but we will highlight some hotties.

The Squawking Goat, is a fried chicken breast, hot pepper jelly and a fried goat cheese medallion on a biscuit.

There's also the Five — fried chicken breast, pecan wood-smoked bacon and cheddar cheese, topped with sausage gravy.

Screen Shot 2017-01-02 at 1.39.26 PM.png

AND The Blues Biscuit, consisting of pulled pork, housemade slaw, and honey BBQ sauce.

You hungry yet?

The second question is the most fun, you will be asked a piece of personal trivia like, what is something you couldn’t live without? Or, what did you aspire to be when you grew up?

And why are you asked this? Because, unlike the embarrassingly misspelled name you could have scrawled on the side of a paper cup, you will have your answer of Altoids or Teacher used as your identifier. These questions inspire conversation among you and your group and facilitate the beginning of a wonderful hour spent in Maple Street. From the moment you order to the second you eat, to the hot minute it takes you to leave, you are already thinking about the next time you will be back. Welcome to the community!

 

(flagship store)

2005 San Marco Blvd

Jacksonville, FL

32207

Week 44: The Buttered Biscuit

“New Jersey Couple Heads Homey Biscuit Bistro”

The Buttered Biscuit Café – New Jersey

By Barbara Booras

With a name like The Buttered Biscuit Café, one could only assume that husband and wife owners, Liz and Dave McAllister, were experts on the subject. “I have to be honest,” Liz confessed, “I had never made a biscuit in my life.” Presumption swiftly dashed.

The Culinary Arts graduate had to test countless recipes before mastering the restaurant’s current interpretation, which she considers to be a hybrid between a southern biscuit and a Jersey biscuit. According to Liz, a biscuit from the south is usually “bigger and fluffier,” while the Jersey variety is “a little denser.” It took quite a bit of trial and error and the process was “crazy getting it just right.”

Prior to opening The Buttered Biscuit Café in Bradley Beach, New Jersey, the McAllister’s owned and operated The Honeysuckle Café. They loved their first undertaking, a seasonal, seaside eatery, but had their eyes set on a year-round venture.

Their current breakfast-centric concept was fueled by the couple’s shared love for the meal. Liz and Dave worked nights. Breakfast was what Liz wistfully recalled as, their “time together.” The two couldn’t find a great local spot that fit the bill; someplace welcoming, delicious and “really fresh,” Dave emphasized.

“At first, he wanted to do dinner and I wanted to do breakfast,” Liz shared.

“She won,” Dave chuckled. “Which turned out to be great, of course,” he added grinning.

As for the name, well, that simply popped into Dave’s head one day, and they both loved it. “I’ll make homemade biscuits. That will be our niche,” thought Liz.

“We’ll do homemade cinnamon honey butter too,” Dave added while brainstorming before the café’s opening.

In the spring of 2011, following a major makeover, the inviting twelve table restaurant finally opened up shop. The café has since expanded and can now accommodate 84 guests in two dining areas. In warmer weather, one can enjoy breakfast al fresco with a view of bustling main street Bradley Beach.

The couple, now married eight years, first met while working together at a local restaurant, Liz waiting tables and Dave managing the bar. Nowadays, Liz is managing the front of the house while Dave works behind the scenes in the kitchen.   

Most of the menu consists of Dave’s creations, with the exception of Liz’s biscuit recipe. “He has a natural knack for it,” Liz shared about her husband, “and honestly I think he is more of a chef than I was or ever will be.”

The Buttered Biscuit Café serves up breakfast and lunch classics daily. The menu boasts specials like Dave’s Homemade Cornedbeef Hash ($7.99), Southern Style Biscuits and Gravy ($8.99), Lemon Zest Mascarpone Stuffed French Toast ($11.99) and a Homemade Meatloaf ($12.99) accompanied by addictive Gorgonzola Homefries.

Hand-selected ingredients, from-scratch cooking and ‘no junk’, make every dish at the Buttered Biscuit Café reminiscent of a taste of home. “We use a lot of organic [ingredients], buy local eggs, and have fresh produce coming in every day,” explains Dave.

While Bradley Beach swells with tourists in the summer, the restaurant remains consistently packed year-round. “We have a diverse clientele and I love that about this place,” the couple concurred. Regulars, visitors, and ladies who lunch fill the dining room day-in and day-out. And who can forget the lively young locals enjoying the Buttered Biscuit Café’s BYOB policy? “The [neighboring] liquor store’s very happy. Their champagne sales have gone up 1,000%,” Dave joked. The restaurant provides fresh squeezed juices and mixers for customers to concoct mimosas, bloody marys or Irish coffees.

The cozy spot started with just three employees “and we still have one of the three,” Dave exclaimed as he squeezed the shoulder of the seasoned veteran passing by. The couple credits the restaurant’s success to their talented team: “You can’t walk out the door without at least three people saying ‘thank you’ and ‘have a great day’ and we think that’s so incredibly important,” Dave said, singing the staff’s praises.

The touch of hospitality isn’t the only effort that matters at The Butter Biscuit Café, “the touch can make or break the biscuits,” Liz explains to kitchen staff she’s since trained on biscuit making. The key is “tender hands” and not over kneading the dough. “And they’re made with love,” Dave adds on. Liz’s signature biscuits are made from scratch, mixed by hand, served warm, and accompanied by her husband’s homemade honey cinnamon butter and strawberry preserves, just as they had originally planned.

These days, the McAllisters guesstimate they bake about 80,000 biscuits annually. “We had no idea what we had created here and that people were going to be so receptive,” said Liz. Now, the couple affectionately share their breakfast time together with the company of loyal customers bonding over biscuits in this much-loved, homespun New Jersey breakfast spot.

 

The Buttered Biscuit Café  – Biscuit Recipe

By Liz McAllister

The Buttered Biscuit – Bradley Beach, NJ

Makes 12 Biscuits

 

3 cups (24 oz) all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting

2 tablespoons (1 oz) baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups (1 lb) unsalted butter, cold and shredded

2 cups half and half

8 Eggs, 6 whole eggs plus 2 egg yolks separated

 

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Sift all-purpose flour, baking powder, and kosher.

Add shredded butter into dry mix and combine by hand until butter is pea sized bits.

Combine half and half and eggs, whisk vigorously. Add to dry mix and combine with hands until wet dough forms. Transfer to floured surface and knead briefly.

Using a floured rolling pin, roll out to about 1/2” thick and cut with biscuit cutter.

Place on parchment lined sheet pan.

Bake 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Tips: Remember to knead gently. “Tender hands” are the secret to these biscuits, according to Liz McAllister. Serve with cinnamon honey butter.

Screen Shot 2016-12-26 at 11.22.23 AM.png

 

Visit The Buttered Biscuit Café

700 Main St

Bradley Beach, NJ 07720

Phone: (732) 807-4069

 

The Buttered Biscuit 

Facebook 

 

Hours:

Sunday – Saturday 8 AM – 3 PM

Week 43: The Range Cafe

Home, home at the Range Cafe. Now, you may not be from New Mexico but your stomach sure will be singing when you visit this week’s state biscuit. Introducing one of the most colorful establishments on the list. From the food to the walls, you cannot escape the beauty of New Mexico and what The Range Cafe has to offer. Welcome home, biscuit, into our stomachs.

 

This week we are going to start by setting the stage. So, the beginning of this program falls to the walls. Other than being an amazing restaurant, the Range Cafe of Albuquerque, New Mexico, displays and honors local New Mexican artists. There are cows on the range, signs telling you which way, and all from those living and loving in this great state.

Making sure your eyes get full as well as your bellies. There’s not much more sight-seeing to do after this. Feast your eyes.

The Range Cafe obviously made sure the state’s tagline “Land of Enchantment” also applied to the restaurant quirky atmosphere. Now, the reason the walls are so big is because they house an entire community’s worth of local. We already told you about the local artist, but it’s also locally owned, and all local food. You know we love when that ingredient supply chain is pretty much from the farm to our plates. When you eat at The Range Cafe you are guaranteed eating in New Mexico. It’s basically a landmark at this point.

And for something that fits inside of those walls, the restaurant history. There are now three Range Cafes across the great state of New Mexico, but it wasn’t always this way. The original Range Café was started in 1992 by Tom Fenton and Matt DiGregory in Bernalillo, New Mexico in an unexpected place, a former gas station. It was funky from the start and only sat 56 people (compare that to the lines you may find at breakfast time and you might be there a while). And they named it The Range Cafe. Now, it’s not in homage to the kind of range you are thinking of, but rather deference to the stove type range..

The original cafe sadly burned down after only three years of being opened. But you can’t stop a popular restaurant that serves “ordinary food done extraordinarily well” ever since. The restaurant found a new home and still stands there today, and with an awesome gift shop we may add (including their house made salsa!).

And now, for the menu. It can’t involve too many pictures because you may never take your eyes off of it. We’re talking photogenic food. We would probably stare at it all day if it weren’t for the fact that we know it tastes even better than it looks!

Things to expect and look forward to (we know you are planning your trip to this cafe before you can even finish this blog). Lamb shank that falls of the bone. Meatloaf better than mom’s. A seemingly endless pile of delicious fried fish. Crab cakes that rival the ones in Maryland. Some of the best New Mexican dishes in the city. You pretty much can only go wrong if you only order water (because did we mention the drinks yet?). The bar is big and has some of the best margaritas you could ever dream of, and believe us, after you have one, you will dream of it later. (Obviously they are also extremely colorful).

Now that we have set the New Mexican stage, time to bring out the star, the biscuit. They are big and beautiful and even raved as “life changing”. You can get it with gravy and you can get it as a side and you can stuff all of the other food inside. Everything goes good in a biscuit, and one of this size? Perfect base for a perfect biscuit sandwich. It just goes to show that no matter how far you travel from the south, you can still find a great biscuit.

Unfortunately, this time around, we couldn’t get a recipe, but! There is an entire recipe book out there for you to get your hands on! And just in time for stocking stuffers (and then belly stuffers). So, bring New Mexico to you (or yourself to New Mexico) so you can get your hands on this New Mexico Biscuit.

Week 42: The Root Cafe

50 States of Biscuits- Arkansas 

The Root Cafe 

1500 S Main Street 

Little Rock, Arkansas 72202 

(501) 414-0423 

therootcafe.com 

  

We talk a lot about biscuits around here. Some folks vow by the technique, while others swear by the ingredients. When it gets down to the heart of the matter, the real secret to a great biscuit is held in its makers hands.  

Jack and Corri Sundell opened The Root Cafe in 2011 to build community through local food. 

Jack explains that they believe local is a lifestyle,” which is part of a much broader vision. Its why The Root Cafe offers its Southside Main Street (SoMa)  neighborhoods local food economy a home base for supporting sustainable agriculture and a brighter future for our food systems. Corri smiles, Everyone eats,” while Jack adds, food is a great way to start the conversation.”  

Little Rock is actually brimming with folks that share The Roots philosophy. Less than 2 miles up the road, is an extraordinary non-profit- Heifer International. Working with communities to strengthen their local economies, including the U.S., Heifer has helped 25 million families lift themselves out of poverty and hunger. 

 

 

Experience Heifers work first-hand right in The Roots backyard with the more than 500 farms and producers in The Land of Opportunity.”  

 

 

The Roots menu reads like a Whos Who in Farming” role-call featuring several producers that Heifer International lent a hand in building sustainable business models. Head over to therootcafe.com for a full-list of farm partners. 

But, "What does this have to do with biscuits?" you may ask 

Initially, the Sundells never dreamt of a full-service breakfast. Because of their close proximity to downtown, it was their lunch crowd they focused on building. We planned a grab-n-go breakfast menu, but the neighborhood asked for more,” Jack explains. The kitchen was small, which left no room for a complicated biscuit production. So, Corri rolled up her sleeves and perfected a buttermilk drop biscuit recipe that didnt require a large floured surface for rolling, patting, laminating, proofing, or any of the other techniques some makers consider gospel. Corri says that the tricky part to her biscuit recipe is that she mixes the dry ingredients first. Then she melts the butter and lets it cool down before pouring in the ice-cold buttermilk, which recreates the chunks of cold fat that is the foundation for any prize-winning biscuit. The Roots biscuit sets the bass” while the finest of Arkansas farms sing lead, creating a most harmonious breakfast plate.  

Necessity truly is the mother of invention at The Root Cafe. Come this January, the Sundells will do something else they didnt plan on for their original locavore concept. They will expand as a Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner full-service mainstay in their beloved SoMa neighborhood. Still, they didnt just up and re-invent themselves one morning. It all began with a call from the MBAs Across America” back in 2014. After a summer of consultation, the take-away was dinner service for a more robust business plan. The Sundells ended up winning $25,000 from Holiday Inn in partnership with HLN to set them on the road to expansion. 

 

Furthering the windfall, JPMorgan Chase Banks Mission Mainstreet” granted The Root Cafe $150,000. Out of the 25,000 applications nationwide, 20 were selected, and the Sundells were the only Arkansas business owners to be awarded for their invaluable community commitment. 

 It just goes to show, you can make the world a better place one biscuit at a time.  

Jack and Corri Sundell definitely inspire those they meet to plug into the community for positive change. One way to create a spark in your local food community on a global scale this holiday season is to #GiveHeifer. Television personality, Alton Brown, explains how Heifer passes the gift  

 It’s time for a little holiday cheer. Make a batch of The Root Cafe Wine Jelly” for your next holiday brunch. Jack and Corri typically use a red muscadine wine from Post Familie Vineyards in Altus, AR to serve with their breakfast items. There's no need to can it,” Jack suggests, you can just cool it in the refrigerator, and use it right out of the jar! 

 

Wine Jelly  

yield = about 7 half-pints 

 Ingredients: 

 3 to 3 ½ cups wine 

 ½ cup lemon juice 

 1 package of pectin 

 4 ½ cups of sugar 

 

Method: 

 1. Combine wine, lemon juice, and pectin in a large sauce pot. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Return to a rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam off top, if necessary. 

 2. Ladle hot jelly into hot, sterilized jars, leaving ½-inch headspace. Tighten 2 piece lids. Process for 5 minutes in boiling water bath. 

3. Remove from canner and place on a towel to cool. 

 

 


Written by: Melissa D. Corbin 

Corbin is a Nashville-based freelance food and travel journalist. Shes also the founder of Corbin In The Dell, a company connecting those who care where their food comes from through content development and strategies that matter. Follow her on instagram @melcorbin and twitter @mdcorbin. 

 

 

 

 

Week 41: Jacob's Pickles

Upper West Side Mainstay Serves Up Southern Brunch Trifecta

By: Barbara Booras

There is something inherently special about brunch. It’s not uncommon one may arrive to said meal hungover, overtired, hangry or in an unfortunate combination of all three. However, to leave happily stuffed, pleasantly buzzed, and genuinely elated is not only rare but magical. The healing powers, of one extraordinary New York City brunch spot, can be distilled down to three words: Beer, Biscuits, and Pickles.

If you are one of the fortunate individuals who have dined at the Upper West Side’s mainstay, Jacob’s Pickles, you’ve undoubtedly tasted one of their fresh-baked biscuits. Since it’s opening in 2011, the 114 seat restaurant has established itself as a southern dining destination worth traveling to.

Owner and founder, Jacob Hadjigeorgis developed the original menu inspired by extensive travel and his love of southern food and craft beer. Following in the footsteps of his restauranteur father, it came as no surprise he would assume the family trade. With two upcoming projects, both in the Upper West Side neighborhood, Hadjigeorgis continues to piggyback on the success of his namesake restaurant.

Jacob’s Pickles isn’t just bustling for brunch. The restaurant is proportionally packed for weeknight dinner service, serving up classic comfort food ranging from Shrimp and Bacon Grits, to Low Country Meatloaf, and Macaroni and Cheese. Hadjigeorgis’ first restaurant endeavor in Boston’s Quincy Market, aptly named Mmmac n' Cheese, focused solely on the cheesy classic.

For brunch, diners pack the lofty restaurant, softened by exposed brick walls and a rustic wood backed bar. Towering Bloody B.L.T’s featuring romaine lettuce, crisp bacon and a jalapeno pickled egg ($13) are a fan favorite in addition to the rotating selection of local and craft beers. While whizzing behind the bar and shaking up drinks, the bartenders (and customers) cheerfully sing along to the soundtrack of the day.

Although Jacob’s Pickles is an inviting space for large groups, saddling up at the bar with the welcoming bartenders proves an equally exceptional experience. Propped up on a bar stool, one can expect to make friends with sociable brunch-goers or take in a sighting of one of many celebrity regulars.

Executive Chef Glenroy Brown, oversees the well-oiled machine that is the back of the house at Jacob’s Pickles. With experience working for industry giants Bobby Flay and Danny Meyer, including a stint at Blue Smoke, he developed his southern culinary chops early on.

The now 28 year-old chef, studied culinary arts at The Art Institute of New York City. “School only teaches you so much,” explained Brown.  After working his way up at Blue Smoke and a few restaurants around the city, Glenroy was ready to find a culinary home where he would establish himself using his own skills and techniques. “It’s definitely here,” says Brown, “and at the new place [Maison Pickle].”

Behind the scenes, Chef Brown’s team, is continually churning out small batches of biscuits, where they will typically feed over 500 hungry customers. Because of the high demand, biscuits are made on sheet trays. “It’s most efficient for the amount of volume we do,” says Brown.

Thankfully, quality is not sacrificed for quantity. The original recipe, developed by the owner, is still made by hand with just a few simple ingredients. Each fluffy batch of biscuits is baked off in a small convection oven in the center of the bustling kitchen. Once portioned off, the biscuits await in a warmer before being assembled into any number of biscuit-centric dishes.

The signature warm buttermilk biscuits can be enjoyed solo or with an array of accompaniments including house strawberry and orange preserves, clover honey, salted butter, and maple butter ($8).  The kitchen finds the most popular brunch dish to be the Honey Chicken & Pickles ($16). Crisp buttermilk fried chicken is drizzled with honey, topped with house made hot sour pickles, and sandwiched between two warm biscuits.

You can find the biscuits creatively incorporated into other items on the menu as well. “They’re sweet but savory,” says Chef Brown, making them versatile and “easy to transform.” The french toast ($15), which rotates seasonally, currently features a pumpkin biscuit, topped with candied yams and powdered sugar. A Buttermilk Fried Chicken Caesar ($16) features biscuit “crostinis” or croutons, which have been fried then topped with parmesan and oregano.  Finish your meal on a sweet note with the warm Biscuit Bread Pudding served up in a skillet with vanilla ice cream ($9).

With Pickles in the name, Chef Brown’s pickle game is nothing short of on point. His team makes batches of house made fresh pickles weekly. Special Sours, Hot Sour Cukes, Big Dill Kosher Cukes, Pickled Beets, Carrots, Tomatoes, and Jalapeños all grace the menu. Available one for $4, four for $11 or a sampling of eight varieties for $16. Pickles are placed in mason jars on sampling boards for customers to enjoy with a meal.

Approaching its fifth year anniversary, Jacob’s Pickles cult following only continues to grow. “I’ve been in restaurants for about nine years now and I’ve never worked in a place where people consistently wait outside for over two hours,” shared Brown. With the promise of stellar beer, biscuits, and pickles, Jacob’s Pickles transformative brunch experience is well worth the wait.

Buttermilk Biscuits

By Jacob Hadjigeorgis

Jacob’s Pickles – New York, NY

Makes about 9 Biscuits

 

4 ½ cups (1.25 lb) Self-Rising Flour

¾ cup (6 oz) butter, frozen and shredded

2 cups buttermilk

4 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon olive oil

 

Preheat oven to 325*F

Mix the flour and the butter in a large mixing bowl by hand.

Add the sugar and the buttermilk and slowly work the batter until it just comes together.

Add the olive oil to your hands and work the mixture to a quarter sheet pan.

Once the mixture is on the sheet pan, pat and smooth the top until it's completely flattened and evenly spread. Score the biscuits with a knife.

Place in the oven and bake for approximately 17 minutes, rotating the biscuit half way during the cooking process.

Let biscuits cool then cut into even squares.

Tips: Brush tops of biscuits with melted butter when they first come out of the oven. Serve with salted butter, jam or your favorite local honey.

Visit Jacob’s Pickles

509 Amsterdam Ave

New York, NY 10024

 

[http://jacobspickles.com/]

f [https://www.facebook.com/jacobspickles/]

@ [https://twitter.com/jacobspickles]

 

Hours:

Monday-Thursday           10am-2am

Friday                                    10am-4am

Saturday                              9am-4am

Sunday                                 9am-2am

*Kitchen closes earlier. Check website for further details.

Jacob’s Pickles accepts reservations for six or more on Resy.

No reservations taken for weekend brunch.


Barbara Booras is a Boston native and freelance writer based in New York City. She works full-time in Sales for an all-natural Mediterranean-inspired importer and producer. In addition to being a lover of all things gastronomy, Barbara is an avid runner and recently completed her second NYC Marathon running with City Harvest, a local food rescue charity.

Week 40: The Big Biscuit

The Big Biscuit

Ten Locations throughout Kansas & Missouri

Written by Zak Goeringer

Photo courtesy of Instagram.com

Photo courtesy of Instagram.com

Have you ever thought to yourself, “IF I drove to Kansas tomorrow, what would the biscuit 'sitch be? Would I be able to find something to quench my biscuit thirst? I can’t go to a state that doesn’t have the promise of a biscuit so good that it should be in danger of being illegal.”

Well, if you ever do have that inkling, you’re in luck – take it on down The Big Biscuit in Kansas City. Much like the name, they pride themselves on biscuits and breakfast meals so large your head will spin right out of control and land in biscuit nirvana.

Photo courtesy of Instagram.com

Photo courtesy of Instagram.com

The very first Big Biscuit started slinging mondo biscuits in the year 2000, with their founding philosophy being “every guest to have a great experience.” With that, they have hit the ground running, serving up biscuit bounties so rich you’ll think it’s some sort of biscuit waterworld, but instead of endless water, endless fluffy mountains of true biscuit existence.

After all, how COULD you go wrong with a signature dish known as the “Yard Bird?” It’s simple, after hearing this, you can’t logically go wrong with this choice. We’re talking hand-breaded fried chicken breast, some sweet, delicious cheddar cheese, sandwiched between a voluminous biscuit and smothered in some luscious gravy. I don’t know about you, but our mouths AND eyes are watering just thinking about this outstanding concoction of a biscuit powerhouse. Not to mention the heaping helping of potatoes to top it all off in a blaze of biscuit-powered glory.

Photo courtesy of Instagram.com

Photo courtesy of Instagram.com

What’s that you say? That doesn’t float your biscuit boat? Wait, you don’t own or even like a biscuit boat? Well, no problem! Try out The Alamo! An exemplary breakfast burrito loaded with all the most notorious breakfast ingredients.

Photo courtesy of Instagram.com

Photo courtesy of Instagram.com

Also, at The Big Biscuit, they’re not breakfast prejudice – say you roll in there and proclaim “I WILL NOT BE HAVING A BISCUIT TODAY!” They STILL have you covered with items such as The Cinnamon Roll – buttermilk pancakes made in the style of a gorgeous cinnamon roll.

Photo courtesy of Twitter.com

Photo courtesy of Twitter.com

The Big Biscuit has one ideal – everyone should have a great experience, and with the Big Biscuit evolving and growing, so too are they expanding the number of locations. No no, we’re not just talking one location in Kansas City, we’re talking up to TEN locations across Kansas & Missouri combined. So do yourself a “flavor” – the next time you’re in the Midwest, the salt-of-the-earth beating heart of this nation, take that biscuit appetite on into The Big Biscuit. You won’t regret this biscuit decision for the rest of your biscuit life. 

Photo courtesy of Instagram.com

Photo courtesy of Instagram.com

Week 39: Serious Biscuit

The pig sitting outside the entrance at Serious Biscuit in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood is covered in chalk, doodles scribbled by those patiently waiting for a table during the weekend brunch rush hour. The porker’s name is Biscuit, which seems fitting given the casual cafe’s mission to do right by the best breakfast bread product in the world.

When James Beard Foundation award-winning chef and restaurateur Tom Douglas opened the place in early 2010, Seattle was woefully lacking biscuit options. Tom had been to Pine State in Portland, Ore.,  a few times and was impressed with the vibe. He thought Seattle was ready for a Serious Biscuit and the company’s pastry chef, Stacy Fortner, couldn’t have agreed more.

“The first thing I did after becoming pastry chef was change the biscuit,” said the Kentucky native, who had been craving a taste of her home state since relocating to the Pacific Northwest. Her initial efforts to introduce a better biscuit appeared at the restaurant group’s Dahlia Bakery, so when Tom talked to her about the Serious Biscuit project, she was pumped.

She scoured vintage Southern cookbooks for a recipe that made sense, something that was fluffy and flavorful, yet sturdy enough to hold the sandwiches that are the foundation of the menu at Serious Biscuit. She hit flour-y gold in a well-worn spiral bound collection from the Kentucky Federation of Womens Clubs called Kentucky Hospitality: A 200 Year Old Tradition.

“I tweaked it to make it my own,” she said. That includes using a heavier flour than something like a White Lily, and baking them a bit longer so they’re a shade beyond golden.

“Tom likes a crispy biscuit,” she explained.

Walk into the bustling space that Serious Biscuit shares with one of the restaurant group’s three pizza joints, Serious Pie, and the air is perfumed with the buttery scent of the star sandwich ingredient being toasted off before being piled high with thick-sliced ham, fried green tomatoes, house-made peanut butter and housemade jam.

Customers line up at the counter, ordering from the massive menu that hangs from the ceiling. The lineup has changed little since Serious Biscuit made its debut. Ham, cheddar, fried egg topped with apple mustard is still the best seller, with The Zach coming in hot as another popular choice, named for a regular who requested bacon and egg on top of the juicy fried chicken. That sandwich is Tom’s fave, too, with creamy black pepper gravy on top.

The Southern-inspired biscuit sandwich menu also includes a catfish cake dressed in a green olive tartar sauce and crispy ham hocks partnered with collard greens and smoked onions. The short list of sides balances out the flour portion of the menu by paying tribute to corn. Grits are from Anson Mills, and hush puppies get a bit of heat from chopped jalapeno peppers.

On Serious Biscuit’s first day back in 2010, the kitchen baked about 50 biscuits. These days, it’s up to 500. The neighborhood has become known as Amazonia, as office buildings for the online retail Goliath have transformed an area that used to be an industrial wasteland. South Lake Union is now home to towering office buildings, apartments and condos. The city’s restaurant scene has experienced tremendous growth, largely because the new construction is mandated to have retail space on the ground level, and much of that has become pubs, cantinas, fast-casual Asian and bagel shops. Serious Biscuit and Serious Pie were among the first to carve out a spot in the neighborhood, and, judging by the steady stream of customers on a recent weekday, that move has paid off.

But a killer location is only part of the key to its success. Everything comes back to the biscuit.

All members of Stacy’s pastry crew know how to mix, roll and bake off the biscuits because consistency is essential. The prep is ongoing throughout the week, with various pastry chefs cutting pounds and pounds of butter, so it’s ready to go each morning when the process begins around 5 a.m.

“We even pre-measure the dry ingredients and keep them in the freezer, so they’re extra cold,” Stacy explained.

The biscuit making procedure was laid out, step-by-step in The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook (2012):

Cold butter is cut into the dry ingredients.

Cold buttermilk is added and the dough is mixed by hand.

Biscuit dough is kneaded lightly and shaped into a rectangle.

The dough is flattened to ¾-inch thickness with a rolling pin before being cut into squares.

They’re baked in a 475-degree oven for about 14 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time.

Before serving, the cooled biscuits are split in half and toasted.

Here’s the full recipe, which yields about 20 2 ½ inch square biscuits:

 

Ingredients:

5 ½ cups all-purpose flour (1 pound, 14 ounces)

2 tablespoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 ½ cups cold unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch dice, plus a few tablespoons melted butter for brushing

3 cups cold buttermilk

 

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.

In a large bowl, using a whisk, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the cold to the bowl and using a pastry blender, two forks or fingertips, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the butter is the size of peas. Add the cold buttermilk and use a rubber spatula or both hands to mix the dough until everything is just combined. Do not overmix.

Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead 4 or 5 times, just until you have a smooth surface on top. Use your hands to shape the dough into a rough rectangle, then using a rolling pin to roll out the dough to a rectangle ¾ inch thick. Use a knife to cut the rectangle into 2 ½ inch squares.

Place the biscuits on a parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them about an inch apart. Brush the tops with melted butter.

Put the biscuits in the oven and bake until golden brown, about 14 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a wire rack for a few minutes. Serve the biscuits warm.

 Serious Biscuit Trivia:

At the breathtaking Starbucks Reserve Roastery, Serious Biscuits are available for breakfast and lunch, though they’re low-profile, devoid of the restaurant’s branding, making it the most famous under-the-radar biscuit in the country.

Those in the know are thrilled to have this delicious option, best enjoyed with a cup of single-origin pour over coffee.


Leslie Kelly is a Seattle-based food writer, who learned to LOVE biscuits while living in Memphis, Tenn., working at The Commercial Appeal. She's a member of The Southern Foodways Alliance, and is obsessed with fried chicken, barbecue and ramen. She's currently Senior Editor at Allrecipes.com

Week 38: eat.

eat.- Las Vegas, Nevada 

707 Carson St. (at 7th)  

Las Vegas, NV 89101 

(702) 534-1515 

www.eatdtlv.com 

 

 

Las Vegas is easily the brightest city on earth considering the more than 15,000 miles of neon tubing on its 4-mile strip, alone. Undoubtedly, sparkle is indeed the sin citys signature color. So, it stands to reason that the only biscuits to be found might be the imposturous gems dripping from well-coifed socialites. Patrick T CooperSpoils Columnist for The Global Traveler offers this biscuit wisdom, Safety and security are paramount when it pertains to your crown jewels. In your rigorous travels and every day regiment, be not afraid to replicate your family heirlooms. Ask your jeweler for a biscuit. Trust me it will be the smartest investment you will ever make. 

 

 

Among the usual celebrity sitings, theres a smattering of biscuit cameo appearances on the strip. But, head on over to Downtown Las Vegas and folks are lined out the door for Chef/Owner Natalie Youngs Cinnamon Biscuits at eat. the breakfast and lunch joint downtown. Served with a warm strawberry compote, these sweet little numbers could easily be shared as a dessert, or perhaps star as the main event. Like everything on Youngs menu, the ingredients are responsibly sourced, and made from scratch. This is truly good food for good people made with love in Downtown Las Vegas. Upon entering eat., its immediately apparent this place is about way more than the beautiful food and service. The all-are-welcome atmosphere” of the joint shines right down to the fact that these folks are willing to share their knowledge. Limited kitchen scholarships are available for those who give a damn.    

Talk about good people.  

Lovingly referred to by locals as “Chef Nat,” this is one lady with sheer determination. Overcoming addiction and years of discrimination as a gay, African-American woman was no match for Young. Here, she shares her  Journey Never Stops” story for American Express. 

 

 

Keep in mind, Downtown Vegas was once THE Vegas. As the strip grew brighter, Downtown struggled to keep their lights on. In most recent years, the once disheveled Downtown Vegas community experienced a renaissance, thanks in large part to the Downtown Project. This organizations dedication to helping revitalize part of downtown Las Vegas through investment in small businesses by inspiring and empowering people to follow their passions to create a vibrant, connected urban core” proves worthy time and time again. So far the organization has allocated $350 million toward revitalization, with $200 million in real estate and development, $50 million in small businesses, $50 million in tech startups through VegasTechFund, and $50 million in arts and culture, education, and healthcare. And to date, 50 Downtown businesses,  along with a host of events and services have benefited from a most valuable belief in humanity.  

Screen Shot 2016-11-14 at 9.28.17 AM.png

 Young says that she is grateful for the chance the Downtown Project took on her, and proudly was first to pay her loan back in just over one years time.  

It just goes to show that life doesn’t always offer us a pan of biscuits to sop our plates in anticipation of pie. The way we play the hand of cards dealt us is what makes all the difference. While Chef Nats Cinnamon Biscuits are certainly deserving of the Nevada edition of 50 States of Biscuits,” its her kind of tenacity and strength that this great nation of diverse people was and is built upon that truly makes her aces in our book.   

 Now, back to those sparkle biscuits 

 

Writer's note: I looked high and low for the best Vegas biscuit. Special thanks to International Biscuit Festival's Chadwick Boyd for his recommendations. If you haven't tried his Cauliflower Drop Biscuits with Cheddar, Bacon and Leeks, you just may need these for the holidays!  

Click HERE for a similar recipe!


 Written by: 

Melissa D. Corbin 

Corbin is a Nashville-based freelance food and travel journalist. Shes also the founder of Corbin In The Dell, a company connecting those who care where their food comes from through content development and strategies that matter. Follow her on instagram @melcorbin and twitter @mdcorbin. 

 

Week 37: Rex 1516

Northeast Meets Deep South with Philly Biscuit Mashup

By Barbara Booras

Justin Swain wants his customers to “crave the food they eat here, when they’re not [at Rex 1516].”

“It’s really easy, when you’re doing southern food,” says Swain, Rex 1516’s Executive Chef and Philadelphia native. Any uncertainties my inner skeptic had on whether this former bike messenger from Philly would deliver one of the all-time, crave-worthy biscuits, were quickly quelled when a warm plate of Everything Bagel Drop Biscuits appeared before me.

Over six years ago, fueled by a love of learning and a wide range of interests varying from art, to cooking, and bicycle mechanics, Justin Swain found himself being pulled in several directions. He was encouraged by his girlfriend to focus his energy on one single pursuit, culinary arts. Sage advice from the Chef’s now wife.

Rex 1516, opened its doors in the spring of 2012 and has been serving up a blend of regional southern cuisines with a twist ever since. Swain, on board since the opening, joined the team as sous-chef but found himself quickly promoted to Executive Chef, when his predecessor fell ill. The promotion was a big break for the novice chef, wrapping up his culinary program at the time.

Situated in the South Street West area of Philadelphia, the customer base consists of locals, young professionals and families. As for the neighborhood, Swain says, “little by little, there’s more and more happening on this street.” He likens it to “a very young Passyunk,” a trendy Philly neighborhood experiencing a food renaissance. For the husband and wife owners, Evan Malone and Jill Weber, the couple aims to have the small 34-seat restaurant and bar be a local fixture in the growing community.

Southern comfort, the influence of the former Executive Chef Regis Jansen, remains at the heart of Rex 1516. The dinner menu features classics like fried green tomatoes, crawfish, skillet cornbread, and grits along with more creative interpretations of southern cuisine like the ham hock ravioli or smoked pastrami short rib, one of Chef Swain’s personal favorites.

The southern emphasis doesn’t stop at the menu. The hospitality is palpable from the moment you walk through the door and are warmly greeted by the staff. Rex 1516 makes the effort to remember customer names, birthdays, and backstories. “If you know those things, people will realize you went the extra mile,” Swain explains.  

Rex 1516’s take on a biscuit could arguably be the most brilliant northeast and southern culinary mashup to date. After four iterations of a biscuit recipe, Chef Swain landed at his current creation. Scratch made biscuit dough is brushed with melted butter then rolled in the signature everything bagel blend of poppy, caraway, sesame seeds, garlic, onion and flaky sea salt.

Great care is taken with the preparation of each ingredient. Frozen butter is shredded by hand on a box grater. Temperature of each component is key. Swain mixes the biscuit dough delicately by hand rather than using mixer or food processor. Similar to his approach to barbecue, Swain believes “a lot comes from feel and knowing how things are supposed to look.”

Biscuits are served warm, topped with fried eggs and come served in a bath of surprisingly light and creamy “sawmill gravy” despite generous additions of onions, garlic, bacon, and house made sausage. Justin goes on to explain, “Southern food is about building layers. Cooking your onions in the fat from the bacon and sausage is key to building a good base.” For those less carnivorous, a mushroom gravy is available as well.

“We probably sell out of biscuits every brunch,” Swain boasts fairly. Although the classic Everything Bagel Drop Biscuit is reserved strictly for brunch goers, you can find variations on the recipe included with the Farmer’s Platter available at dinner. Swain has experimented with rosemary and honey, cheddar, and Nashville hot dill biscuits, to name a few.

For those lucky enough to taste the everything bagel drop biscuit with sawmill gravy at Rex 1516, you will certainly be craving the addictive hybrid again soon, just as this Chef had hoped.

---

Drop Biscuits

By Chef Justin Swain

Rex 1516 - Philadelphia, PA

Makes 1 Dozen

 

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 ½ teaspoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

¾ teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

14 tablespoons of butter, divided as such:

8 tablespoons (4 oz) butter, melted

4 tablespoons (2 oz) butter, frozen and shredded

plus 2 tablespoons additional butter, melted for brushing biscuits

Mix dry ingredients and frozen butter by hand.

 

Mix melted butter and buttermilk together separately.

Add wet mixture to dry and mix until biscuits come together and are well combined.

Use an ice cream scoop to portion out biscuits onto greased parchment paper.

Brush tops with melted butter.

Bake at 350°F for 10-15 minutes or until golden on top. 

 

*Please note: Chef Swain won’t reveal his secret everything bagel seasoning blend. Those trying to recreate the recipe at home can try their own blend of poppy, caraway, sesame seeds, garlic, onion and sea salt. After brushing the biscuits with butter, roll them in the topping mixture. Chef adds that the recipe is very forgiving with additions like cheese and herbs or various toppings.*

 

Visit Rex 1516

1516 South Street

Philadelphia, PA 19146

 

Rex 1516 is accepting reservations on Reserve

Hours:

Mon   5-10 pm

Tues - Fri   5-11 pm

Sat   11-3:30 pm, 5-11 pm

Sun   11-3:30 pm, 5-10 pm

 

[http://Rex 1516.com/]

f [https://www.facebook.com/REX1516/]

 

@ [https://twitter.com/REX1516]

Week 36: Biscuits Cafe

Indianapolis, Indiana

Things restaurants do that we love: mix together two unexpected things, serve things in skillets, serve breakfast all day, and have biscuits (obviously). 

Time to bring you to Indianapolis, Indiana. Just a few miles from the Monon biking trails lies a very unassuming restaurant within a strip mall, with just the simple word BISCUITS. Now, that word is enough to get us going, but we know it can take some convincing for others. This is Biscuits Cafe, this is the home of the Indiana biscuit, and you are totally missing out.

Now, with a name like Biscuits Cafe you probably thinking about this place all wrong already. It's not just a bunch of biscuit sandwiches. This is a place that breakfast all day along side a traditional Mexican meals. Yes, Mexican. You walk in (this place is always packed); you are worried about being seated, but you shouldn't be because the service is impeccable. We are talking friendly and fast. An added bonus: you sit and enjoy chips and salsa while you wait for breakfast. This is a dream come true. 

The Mexican cuisine is authentic; so authentic, in fact, that they opted out of the glaringly colorful decor we may have grown accustomed to. Upon entering, an exposed kitchen and white walls greet the guests. All the color this place needs lies within the food, and boy, is it eye catching! Whether ordering traditional breakfast foods like biscuits and gravy, going the traditional food route with taco salad, or mixing it all together with a breakfast quesadilla; there are no wrong ways to enjoy this hearty menu!

People truly love this place. There is no website, no social media presence, and yet we know it exists. Why? Because it is that good.

When you travel to Indiana you should eat like a local, and that is where every other local in the area is dining, morning, noon, and night. 

Also: DRINK SIZES. This mug of mimosa right here, THIS is a medium. If you go to the Biscuits Cafe, whether it be completely out of your way or your coming straight off the Monon, you, your tummy, your wallet, and your spirit will be happy. Don't let the unassuming strip mall scare you away!

 

1035 Broad Ripple Ave

Indianapolis, IN 

46220

Week 35: The Nova Cafe

 

312 E Main St

Bozeman, Montana

59715

Are you a biscuit lover from Bozeman, Montana? Well, consider yourself served. Home of beautiful landscapes, thrill seekers, nature buffs, and most importantly, home of The Nova Café, a downtown mainstay of this mountain town, is serving up breakfast and smiles. No strangers to the importance of your first fuel of the day, get your locally sourced protein and greens before you trek that mountain and work up your appetite for more.

The Nova Café was established in 2007 along with their strong sense of style. Walking into this café, you are immediately greeted with color, local art, cheerful staff, and the welcoming aroma of coffee. Equipped with a full expresso bar and all of the coffee mugs you could ask for, relax and unwind while you wait for a table; this place is bustling. You are not the only one jiving to get your breakfast buzz before the day really starts - everyone, locals and visitors alike, is here and they've even brought their dogs!

Taking a break with friends and family is a pretty great reason to eat delicious, warm food, and taking a break from the ordinary makes it that much richer. Something The Nova Café knows well is ordinary breakfast and how to twist it into something EXTRAordinary. Serving up options like the Flathead cherry cottage cheese pancakes, crab-cake eggs benedict, stuffed Co-op sourdough French Toast, or a prosciutto and asparagus omelet, clearly they have something for all kinds of patrons! Another hint that they aren’t just an average "eggs and bacon" kind of joint: their twist on the duo in their clever logo.

It’s reasons like these that have made The Nova Café Boseman’s Best Breakfast for so many years there’s pretty much no point in counting; they are the best breakfast, end of story. Also, everyone knows the best breakfast is locally sourced (you probably thought we were going to say “has biscuits”, but don’t worry, that comes later). You can literally read the names of the farmers that the food came from. The farms in Montana are beautiful, which, if we had to guess, probably has something to do with how beautiful the food is.

I mean, just look at it.

And the art, just look at it.

And then there’s the 12 different gluten-free bakery options.

Then factor in the organic ingredients, the grass-fed beef (Montana grass), and even some vegetarian and vegan options. We dare you to tell us one reason not to eat here!

The biggest reason you should visit, of course, is for the Montana Biscuit. It’s officially called the Nova-Made Biscuits & Gravy for Players with local sausage gravy and served with two local eggs and seasoned with Bausch Potato home fries. Well, play on playa.

So, next time you scale a mountain in your free time make it in Montana and fuel the excursion with the much needed grains (biscuits, obviously).


Lane Latimer, Nashville native, is a seasoned International Biscuit Festival Intern, UTK Senior, and doubles as an AC Entertainment Intern. She prides herself in goofy marketing techniques while remaining grounded in the woes of the business-professional atmosphere.

Week 34: Snow City Cafe

Written by Lane Latimer

Welcome to Alaska! Enjoy your stay at the Last Frontier, complete with low forty, high thirty degree weather this week, and if you get too cold, you are welcome to thaw out at this week’s biscuit haven. Introducing, Snow City Café, where an eclectic mix of part diner, part espresso bar, part bakery, can satisfy all of your stomach needs. Whether your stomach, brain, and heart call for all the meat you can treat yourself to or completely vegan options, you will be at home at this Anchorage locals’ favorite dining experience.

As other diners have lamented before, this haven has warmly housed tattooed covered, colorful hair creative types in close quarters with suited up, court officials without a bat of an eye. This may be why the Snow City Café is packed to the brim everyday by every walk of life. Locals come in all shapes and sizes and so does the local food. Sourcing as local as possible, not an easy feat in Alaska, the freshest of foods made from scratch and with plenty of love.

Becky Geist, executive chef, comments on the love-baking technique that makes their biscuits so grand, “We keep the recipe simple and emphasize using the proper procedure, which includes no machine mixing...all hand mixing.  This isn't special or (I hope) different from other biscuit makers, but it consistently yields a quality product.” Just like any good robot movie would suggest, love is by hand, not machines!

This restaurant is known for many things: for opening up at 7:00am every day and serving breakfast until it closes eight hours later (a Biscuit Fest favorite quality), for catering to the gluten-free, vegan, and omnivore dietary needs throughout their whole menu and dessert choices, for their amazing coffee and espresso options, for the monthly rotating art on the walls, and for keeping it modest and low key, as you may think of the restaurant from the outside before their food has a chance to grace your tongue.

The restaurant sits on a corner, right on the edge of downtown Anchorage. The booths are just as massive as their serving sizes. Sitting down with more elbow room with a broad counter, you can feel the anticipation of the other diners as they wait for their food. With pancakes as large as their head, their hash browns as big as an entrée but served on the side, French toast so stuffed with cream cheese you’ll be more stuffed than you can imagine; this place feeds giant appetites, and the pictures of their food create them. Large eyes wait for their large quantities in the warm and cozy atmosphere of many people chatting away. This is where great biscuits come from!

Geist anticipated biscuits being perfect for pairing, “Amazing biscuits are light and fluffy inside with a moderate crust and a hint of buttermilk flavor, which when done right, becomes the perfect vehicle for sausage gravy”. Sign us up! Nothing beats biscuits and gravy.

Similar to how you enter the cafe; frozen and then warmed to the perfect temperature with your hot coffee; that’s how Geist makes the biscuits. “Once the dry ingredients are mixed, we shred frozen butter & mix it in with the dry mix and then add the wet ingredients.  We mix by hand until the dough just comes together, then we cut the biscuits & place them side by side on a parchment lined baking sheet, touching but not crowded.  Freeze them, then bake them from a frozen state.”

Everything is baked in house and served straight to you since 1998. Even in it’s first year it was awarded Anchorage’s Favorite New Restaurant, and not much as changed since then. Especially considering it has won Best Breakfast for the past nine years. It might not be the best new restaurant, but it is safe to say, it is still considered the best.

So, open the spoon and fork door of Snow City Café and get ready to fall in love with all of the amazing things they have to offer, like salmon cakes, stuffed French toast, omelets, hash browns, and crowd-favorite hummus.

Oh, did humus catch your eye? Well, we're changing up our usual biscuit recipe with the decadent hummus this cafe so proudly serves!

1 - #10 can Garbanzo beans drained and rinsed

1/3 cup minced garlic

1 TBL+1 tsp Kosher salt

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 cup lemon juice

1 cup tahini

~2 cups olive oil

Mix it all together in a food processor.  Pour the olive oil as the food processor runs & stop when it reaches the proper consistency (sticks to container sides/just able to be poured) - usually around 2 cups.  This basic hummus recipe is excellent, and serves as a great jumping off point for more additions (peppers, eggplant, etc.).

So, next time you are in Alaska, if you need any more convincing, stop by Snow City Café, where you are always welcome, but may need to make a reservation (hint,hint).

1034th W 4th Ave

Anchorage, Alaska

99501


Lane Latimer, Nashville native, is a seasoned International Biscuit Festival Intern, UTK Senior, and doubles as an AC Entertainment Intern. She prides herself in goofy marketing techniques while remaining grounded in the woes of the business-professional atmosphere.

Week 33: Zingerman's Roadhouse

Zingerman’s Roadhouse- Ann Arbor, Michigan

2501 Jackson Ave

Ann Arbor, MI 48103

734.663.FOOD (3663)

zingermansroadhouse.com

By Melissa D. Corbin

 

Zingerman's Roadhouse Is The Pot Of Gold At The End Of A2's Rainbow

Zingerman's Roadhouse Is The Pot Of Gold At The End Of A2's Rainbow

The University of Michigan moved from Detroit to Ann Arbor (A2) in 1837, which fueled rapid growth Michigan’s county seat. These days U of M is a leading research American university which has affected A2’s economy in a profoundly positive way. Still, scattered around this pituresque college town of about 113,000 folks is a group of inspiring Michiganders making a monumental impact on their community in their own rite. We like to think of the Zingerman Communities of Businesses (ZCoB) as the Kevin Bacon of Ann Arbor.

By stressing kindness and generosity through visioning, Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw co-founded Zingerman’s in 1982. (They chose the name because the “Z” would be easy to find at the end of the Yellow Pages.) Watch Weinzweig talk with Maria Shriver about anarchy, rye bread and other philosophies here:

Maria Shriver talks Zingerman's

Since their humble beginnings, the ZCoB entrepreneurial duo has grown the community to more than 15 expressions of their infamous collaborative spirit.

It was in 2002 when Chef Alex Young came aboard as Managing Partner/Executive Chef of Zingerman’s Roadhouse. He would go onto receive the 2011 James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Great Lakes after five, count them, five nominations. Mind you, this is no "highfalutin" chef. His calm, salt-of-the earth personality shines through in everything he does.

Chef Alex Young At The Helm Of Zingerman's Roadhouse Kitchen

Chef Alex Young At The Helm Of Zingerman's Roadhouse Kitchen

“We’re kind of self-taught. Like our approach to food, we try to learn how things are done traditionally, and go from there,” Young talks about his farming style. He learned from “old school” farmers and applied what he learned to the 2014 addition to ZCoB, Cornman Farms. 

Cornman Farms  Farmer Mark Baerwolf Planting Crops To Be Harvested for Zingerman's Roadhouse

Cornman Farms  Farmer Mark Baerwolf Planting Crops To Be Harvested for Zingerman's Roadhouse

Cornman Farms Hoop House Extends The Michigan Growing Season

Cornman Farms Hoop House Extends The Michigan Growing Season

The day we caught up with Young, he was preparing halibut cheeks with black cumin seeds for a Roadhouse Rosh Hashanah dinner special (you can grab a tin of these lovelies and a plethora of other curated notions from the ZCoB online mail order business.)

“Zingerman’s is a Jewish deli of sorts. When we opened the Roadhouse, we chose to focus on Sephardic Jewish food, and so it opens the world up in a whole lot of ways. But, we also do truly American regional food. We cook a lot of bacon and a lot of pigs, that is true,” Young smiles as he explains how the Zingerman's brand could embrace all things pork. They have a Camp Bacon for goodness sake!

The Zingerman's Roadhouse Sign Was Created By Mark Chalou, Of Ann Arbor’s Mr. Neon Lighting.  (Using hard-to-find antique, hand-drawn glass tubes that Mark found in an old glass shop on the East Side of Ann Arbor.)

The Zingerman's Roadhouse Sign Was Created By Mark Chalou, Of Ann Arbor’s Mr. Neon Lighting.  (Using hard-to-find antique, hand-drawn glass tubes that Mark found in an old glass shop on the East Side of Ann Arbor.)

So, it only stands to reason that bacon would make a stand-up showing in our Michigan “50 States of Biscuit” biscuit. It’s the Zingerman’s Roadhouse Biscuit with Chocolate Bacon Gravy.

Zingerman's Roadhouse Biscuits With Chocolate Bacon Gravy

Zingerman's Roadhouse Biscuits With Chocolate Bacon Gravy

“We knew we wanted to have biscuits when we started serving breakfast and brunch about 10 years back,” explains Young. In true form, he researched old biscuit recipes and made it his own. Other than quality ingredients, Young says “there’s nothing special” about the biscuits themselves. “Biscuits are all about technique in my opinion,” he continues. His kitchen team uses their fingers, rather than pastry cutters. Young says that they work the dry ingredients in with the butter until the dough is in pea-sized pieces that are then refrigerated in gallon batches. This way, the butter is cold again. It’s not until they’re ready to bake the biscuits that the buttermilk is added, and the process continues to final product. Whether they roll or pat out the dough, we’ll never tell. He might say there’s nothing special, but we told you he wasn’t "highfalutin."

These biscuits are a huge crowd pleaser, selling out regularly.

Some folks like their Roadhouse biscuits with organic, raw honey from Traverse City. Young’s 12-year-old apiarist daughter, Lucy, will occasionally part with her personal stash for guests. “She’s amazing. She learned from our neighbor who keeps bees, and now she knows a lot about bees,” he says proudly. Then there’s the sorghum and butter. Young continues, “It’s sort of a Kentucky thing, where you swirl the sorghum and butter on a plate. Northerners aren’t as hip to the sorghum thing. They prefer the honey.”  

Chef Young's Biscuits With Some Of That Traverse City Honey

Chef Young's Biscuits With Some Of That Traverse City Honey

Topping the Zingerman’s Roadhouse biscuit condiment list is Chef Young’s Chocolate Bacon Gravy!

Young starts with raw chopped bacon cooked in a pan, and when it’s mostly cooked, he stirs in flour to make the roux. He then adds cocoa powder, sugar and milk. “Whisk it through, and simmer the flour out and you got yourself chocolate bacon gravy,” smiles Young. This savory, sweet delight is mildly sweet, but not like a chocolate sauce. Think mole without the spice.

Oh, who are we kidding?!? This gravy is not a mole at all. It’s in a class all it’s own and so delicious. It’s just something you’ll need to try for yourself. If you can’t head up to the A2, may we suggest Chef Alex Young’s gravy recipe for a little kitchen therapy?

Chocolate Bacon Gravy

Serves 8

4 slices Nueske's Applewood Smoked Bacon

1 c granulated sugar

3 T all-purpose flour

1/4 c cocoa powder

1 c whole milk

1 t sea salt

¼ t freshly ground Tellicherry black pepper

Fry bacon in a skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp. Remove from skillet to dry on paper towels. Pour off accumulated bacon fat through a fine strainer. Return 4 tablespoons rendered fat to skillet.

In a separate bowl, whisk together, sugar, cocoa and flour. Sift mixture into the pan, stirring constantly until blended and beginning to dissolve, about 3-4 minutes.

Add ¼ cup of milk. Mixture will bubble up. Turn up the heat to medium high, and stir constantly until sugar dissolves.  Add remaining milk ¼ cup at a time, stirring to thicken with each addition, until gravy thickly coats the spoon. Add sea salt to taste.

Serve hot, ideally, over buttered and toasted biscuits. Crumble the bacon over the top.


Written by Melissa D. Corbin

Written by Melissa D. Corbin

 Corbin is a Nashville-based freelance food and travel journalist. She’s also the founder of Corbin In The Dell, a company connecting those who care where their food comes from through content development and strategies that matter. Follow her on instagram @melcorbin and twitter @mdcorbin.

Week 32: Biscuits & Company

 Biscuits & Company 

Biddeford, Maine 

By Amanda Balagur 

 

When I walk into Biscuits & Company on Alfred Street in downtown Biddeford, Maine, I am immediately struck by how comfortable and spacious it is. Even when it’s busy, the atmosphere is soothing. In the center of the big open room sits a rectangular communal table made of dark wood that could easily seat twelveThe walls are painted in calming tones of light and dark grey. Modern ceiling fans rotate mesmerizingly slowly, and the décor is an eclectic mix of bright orange metal chairs, wooden benches, colorful pillows and charming knickknacks.  

Owner Stacy Cooper, a woman with short grey hair and a warm smile, mans the registerHer welcoming demeanor seems to set the tone of the space. Cooper keeps things moving without making anyone feel rushed, and takes time to greet each person individually as she takes their ordersShe opened the doors of Biscuits & Company in mid-December, 2014, and has put her heart and soul into the business – and it shows.  

“I imagined a place where everybody could come and be comfortable,” says Cooper, “and when I sit here and look at the range of demographics…people say, ‘Who’s your demographic, who’s your target audience?’ and I say ‘Hungry people’,” she laughs. Cooper’s clientele ranges from elderly locals who live within walking distance to young families to students from the nearby University of New England. Tourists have even started to make a detour into Biddeford just to have stop in for a bite to eat. Tearing up, Cooper adds, “I get really misty when I think about that, because this is what I imagined. It really is. I imagined a place where people would love to come and get good food and feel a sense of community.” 

Although she’s not a native of Maine, Cooper has a long history with the area. She remembers spending summers at the beach in Biddeford Pool and hanging out in Biddeford’s booming downtown in the 1960s. Cooper grew up in Fredericton, New Brunswick, but her grandmother was friends with the Biddeford Pool postmistress, who let them stay in her attic on little camp cots for the summer. Cooper has felt a connection with the city ever since. After living in Boston for twenty years, she and her wife, musician Michelle Currie, decided to move to Biddeford for good seven years ago. 

While Cooper has built her career in corporate training, she has always been involved in the restaurant industry. Years ago, she got her start at Hattie’s Restaurant, where she introduced biscuits to the menu. But it wasn’t until she moved to Maine and began frequenting the local farmers markets that she thought seriously about turning biscuits into a business. 

Cooper remembers her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother whipping up plates of biscuits for family dinners when she was growing up. A few years ago, she attended the Maine Grain Alliance’s Kneading Conference and came across their fine sifted wheat flour made from local heirloom grains, which makes up 20% of the flour in her biscuits. It took some experimenting with ingredients and proportions, but once Cooper hit on the right recipe, she knew she had something great. 

Just as Cooper was preparing to start selling her biscuits at farmers markets, her friend, local business owner Roxy Suger, alerted her to an amazing opportunity. Heart of Biddeford, an organization dedicated to redeveloping and promoting the business district of downtown Biddeford, was sponsoring a contest called The Main Street Challenge. It included an incentive package worth $20,000 for entrepreneurs to open businesses in empty storefronts downtown. 

“I dashed off this one-page concept paper and sent it in, and they loved it,” remembers Cooper. In the second round, she had to prepare a Shark Tank-style business plan, and as one of six finalists, she defended her plan to a panel of judges. Of course, she also handed out samples of her biscuits, and was ecstatic when she won. To raise additional capital, Cooper held a party in the unfinished space; the names of individuals and businesses who contributed are listed in the restaurant on the “Founders Wall of Love.” 

Cooper is the first to admit that creating Biscuits & Company was a community effort. She credits the local business owners, friends, family, staff and her clientele with making the business such a success. “It’s so cool to be a part of the Biddeford community and see how much people have embraced a place like this, Cooper enthuses. 

Unsurprisingly, the biscuits themselves are the star of the show at Biscuits & Company. They’re large and fluffy, with an addictive nutty sweetness and wonderfully crunchy exterior. While the Big Biscuit Sandwich, made with egg, cheddar, greens, roasted tomato and red pepper relish, is the biggest seller, the benedicts served on Sundays with the chef’s heavenly hollandaise are also a huge hit. Everything is handmade from scratch in-house using many local ingredients, including the pork sausage for the biscuits and gravy and the challah for French toast.  

While Biscuits & Company is currently open Wednesday through Saturday for breakfast and lunch and Sunday for brunch, Cooper hopes to expand her business in the future. The challenge is to grow enough to keep up, yet maintain what they have already createdSo plan accordingly when you make Biscuits & Company a destination on your next visit to Southern Maine. You won’t want to miss out on the delicious biscuit dishes made with so much love in the heart of the flourishing community of Biddeford. 

Biscuits & Company 3-1-2 Biscuit Recipe (adapted for the home baker) 

Makes about a dozen  2 biscuits 

Note: Biscuits & Company uses a blend of unbleached all-purpose flour and a locally grown siftedwhole wheat flour from www.mainegrains.com 

 

4 cups flour (about 18 oz)  

2 teaspoons baking powder 

1 teaspoon salt 

generous pinch of raw sugar (if desired) 

12 Tablespoons (6 oz) chilled butter, cut in 1/2" cubes 

1.5 cups (12 oz) cold buttermilk 

 

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 

  • Measure flour into the bowl, then add the baking powder, salt and sugar.  

  • Cut cubed butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender, or simply use your hands to pinch and flatten about half of the butter pieces into the flour mixture. You should have a pebbly mixture with butter flakes and pea sized butter pieces.  

  • Make a well in the center of the flour-butter mixture and add about half the buttermilk.  Lightly toss the dry ingredients over the wet, turning the bowl till the dough forms lots of shaggy bits.  Continue adding buttermilk until mixture barely comes together, but isn't sticky. You may need a little more or less liquid depending on humidity. You'll see some dry spots in the dough- that's OK - the melting butter will bring everything together.    

  • Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently form it into a large ball.  Pat the ball out to 1" thickness, then fold it in thirds like a letter, patting it down to 1" thickness again. Turn and fold the dough once more and pat it down to 1" thickness.  Cut it into 2" squares or rounds. 

  • Place the biscuits 1" apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 425 for 5-6 minutes. 

  • Rotate pan for even baking and bake an additional 5-8 minutes till biscuits are golden brown.  

  • Take biscuits out of the oven and brush with melted butter or honey if desired. Serve hot with butter & jam, or as a base for breakfast sandwiches, biscuits & gravy or shortcake.

Week 31: Willa Jean

Willa Jean

611 O’Keefe Avenue

New Orleans, Louisiana 70113

Willa Jean

Willa Jean

 

Louisianans love to dwell on the details of their most recent meal, and as the state that practically invented brunch (a disputed fact, but we’ll take credit, thank you) the standards are particularly high for morning fare.

The state, and the Crescent City specifically, has seen an influx of breakfast-y joints over the past few years, but one in particular has hit a high note with residents and visitors alike.

A variety of goodies greet guests at Willa Jean’s counter. 

A variety of goodies greet guests at Willa Jean’s counter. 

When you walk into the bright, modern space in New Orleans’ South Market District that is Willa Jean, you’re instantly hit with the intoxicating scent of freshly baked bread and pulled espresso. Guests are greeted by a large sign declaring “U Needa Biscuit,” and never has a suggestion been more true.

Headed by Lisa White and Kelly Fields, Willa Jean is a bakery and a restaurant, but more importantly it is a celebration of bread. Serving as the foundation of the menu, buttery brioche, sweet Hawaiian rolls, chewy focaccia, and more form the base of a decadent variety of savory creations.

Kelly designed this Willa Jean biscuit merch, which you can find here (http://www.shopwillajean.com/collections/apparel). 

Kelly designed this Willa Jean biscuit merch, which you can find here (http://www.shopwillajean.com/collections/apparel). 

The duo’s biscuits in particular have garnered a considerable following. On their own, or simply buttered up and topped with jam, these fluffy treats are a carb-lover’s dream.

What sets these biscuits apart, you ask? A brilliant mix of technique, ingredients, and a little bit of magic.

These biscuits are flaky on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside. 

These biscuits are flaky on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside. 

“The technique is pretty simple,” Kelly says. “Combine the dry ingredients, cut in cold butter, finish with buttermilk until the flour is hydrated. The dough is then rolled, folded over several times, and then cut. We let the biscuits rest in the cooler and then brush them with cream before baking.”

The secret ingredient is the flour.

Lisa says, “I can't believe we are telling the world this…but we use Caputo “00” Pasta Fresca. This flour is milled from a specific part of the wheat, and the result is a light and tender product.”

The magic comes from years of experience.

“My mom is an incredible baker, from whom I still steal recipes,” says Kelly. “Baking was a constant part of our home kitchen, even from a young age.”

Lisa says, “I grew up playing with recipes from Betty Crocker cookbook - the red edition. And then I remember getting Mastering the Art of French Cooking and it petrified me!”

The two eventually found their way into chef and restaurateur John Besh’s various restaurants, where Kelly has spent years developing the company’s pastry programs. Lisa honed her craft, perfecting the breads and sweets as Domenica, a stylish Italian eatery.

Lisa and Kelly joined forces in 2015 with the goal of opening a restaurant/bakery that combined everything they love about food and hospitality into one space.

“Willa Jean was my grandmother's name,” says Kelly. “It became a natural fit. My grandmother always encouraged me to be true to myself, and to put all of myself on the line in everything that I do.  She was by far the biggest advocate in my life for pursuing my passion for food and service.”

Kelly (l) and Lisa Marie at the counter. 

Kelly (l) and Lisa Marie at the counter. 

“Once Kelly said ‘Willa Jean,’ it just seemed perfect,” says Lisa. “I remember her saying ‘Let’s sleep on it,’ but I already knew that was the name.”

Since then the pair have enjoyed a tremendous amount of success, and are paying it forward by passing on their biscuit recipe.

Kelly’s biscuit-making advice is “Work quickly, keep everything cold, and don’t overthink it,” while Lisa muses, “Have fun! It’s just food.”

(Link with brunch history: http://www.louisianacookin.com/louisianas-best-brunch/)

Recipe:

Biscuits with Sausage gravy

Yields 8 servings

Ingredients:

32 ounces pork sausage

1 cup all-purpose flour

9 cups milk (2qt 1 cup)

2 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon pepper

1 tablespoon red crushed red pepper

1 tablespoon of tabasco

 

Cooking method and Preparation:

Cook sausage in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring until beef is no longer pink.

Once meat is cooked sprinkle the one cup of flour over meat until all meat is coated and a light fond is created (do not let it get dark). Turn heat to high, gradually whisk in milk, whisking constantly, 7 to 10 minutes or until gravy is thicken to your liking add in salt, pepper, red crushed pepper and tabasco. Cook for another 5 min. Taste to make sure flour has been cooked out, if not cook for another 5 min or until gravy doesn't have a flour taste. Adjust seasoning as needed.

Helpful tips:

If gravy is to thick, thin it out with milk. Make sure milk and gravy are both hot.

If gravy is too thin, melt 4oz of butter, stir in 4oz of flour, cook for 5 min (until flour taste is gone) and slowly add into hot gravy. Cook for 5 minutes or until gravy thickens up (you may or may not use all of the roux).

 

Biscuits

2cup caputo flour (cake flour works too)

5tablespoons butter, grated through a cheese grater and chilled

2tablespoons baking powder

2teaspoons sugar

1teaspoon salt

1cup buttermilk

 

Preheat oven to 365

Add all dry to a large bowl and mix by hand until combined.

Grate cold butter and add to dry mixture.

Add buttermilk to mixture and combine until all of the dry ingredients are hydrated.

Put the dough onto a floured surface and roll into a rectangle 12inch by 8inch.

Fold the top of the rectangle halfway toward the middle, fold the bottom of the rectangle on top. Flour the top and invert.

Roll into an approximate 12 inch by 8inch rectangle.

With seams facing down, roll into a square.

Cut into squares of desired size. Brush with buttermilk. Bake at 365 until tops and bottoms are golden brown and the middle have set. Around 30 minutes.

 

 

This blog was submitted by one of the International Biscuit Festival freelance writers, Courtney McDuff, who also obtained these photos. Courtney is the Online Editor at Hoffman Media, publisher of Louisiana Cookin’ magazine. Check out more great Louisiana recipes at louisianacookin.com.  

 

Try these topped with fried chicken and Tobasco-honey on the menu at Willa Jean.

Try these topped with fried chicken and Tobasco-honey on the menu at Willa Jean.

Week 30: Butter Bakery and Cafe

I came across Butter Bakery and Café in South Minneapolis the same way most people probably still do – I lived in the neighborhood and became a regular. I’d stop in on the way to work to grab a scone and a cup of coffee. I’d meet friends there for brunch on the weekends. I’d run into neighbors there and sit down with them for an impromptu chat. I got to know the staff and the owner, Dan Swenson-Klatt. I became a part of the Butter community, and eventually, I even worked there as a baker. 

Being a baker, especially one who opens a shop, is far from glamorous. It means rolling out of bed and getting to work by five in the morning (sometimes hours earlier). No matter how careful you are in the kitchen, you inevitably bear the battle scars of baking in the form of multiple burns from hot pans and oven doors. The work can also be monotonous; making the same scones, muffins, sweet breads and coffee cakes day after day, week after week.  

But there’s always that one thing you enjoy making, no matter how often you have to make it. For me, when I was opening baker at Butter, that item was the biscuits. I loved how just a few simple ingredients mixed quickly together combined into a delightfully fluffy dough. I loved scooping the dough out of a big bowl onto a floured surface and gently pressing it to just the right height. My favorite part was stamping out each biscuit and laying it on the sheet pan. It was intensely satisfying. It was also pretty satisfying to take the fresh-baked biscuits out of the oven and admire them in all their golden, fluffy glory. 

Swenson-Klatt inherited the biscuit recipe, along with a few others (such as eclairs), with the space when he opened on Grand Avenue in 2006. He improved upon it by using locally-made butter from Hope Creamery. “Hope butter was the upgrade to the biscuits that really put them on the map,” says Swenson-Klatt. “It was easy to say there’s a story, but there’s also a taste – both things together created a biscuit that was what people really wanted.” 

Nearly all of the items at Butter are made from scratch in-house using locally sourced products, which is no easy feat in Minnesota. “Sourcing locally has been a way to reimagine the way Minneapolis eats,” Swenson-Klatt observes. “There’s been a real revival – even though our growing season here is short. I’ve enjoyed watching that grow around me.” 

Swenson-Klatt was also one of the first to make his restaurant a sustainable space with little-to-no waste. He began composting early and has enjoyed seeing it become the norm city-wide. “Now there are compost carts in everyone’s yards. I was ahead of the game, but I never wanted to be the only one in the game,” he jokes. 

Butter has always been a community-focused space, the kind of coffee shop that makes the neighborhood feel like a small town in a big city. Swenson-Klatt loves that Butter succeeds in providing that kind of experience. He notes, "We're a place where people bring their kids to meet the people in their neighborhood." 

Swenson-Klatt worked behind a grill as a cook when he was in high school, which was the extent of his restaurant experience until he opened Butter. He taught seventh and eighth graders in the Twin Cities metro for nineteen years. During his last decade of teaching, he taught in alternative school programs designed to work with kids who didn’t fit a standard traditional school setting. He even experimented with bringing kids into the kitchen to learn how to cook and bake.  

When Butter moved to a bigger space on Nicollet Avenue in 2012, Swenson-Klatt began a partnership with Nicollet Square to provide internships for kids who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. “As a former teacher, and especially as a teacher in alternative settings who has worked with young folds who have been struggling, I wanted to find a place to do that as a business owner, but I didn't know how to bring it into what I was doing," he explains. "It's having an impact beyond serving good foo. which gives me a bigger purpose than what I'd been doing." 

That doesn’t mean the food comes second; in fact, it has garnered Butter ongoing recognition. In addition to the biscuit sandwich, the café is known for its biscuits with homemade sausage gravy or mushroom gravy. The kitchen also accommodates request for variations on the biscuit sandwich, and offers a simple griddled biscuit with a side of butter and jam. “If you choose the best butter, it’s going to be pretty good,” Swenson-Klatt says, referring to the Butter biscuit. “There aren’t a lot of ingredients in them, so if you use good ingredients, like Hope butter – part of it is that it’s just simple.” 

People often ask Swenson-Klatt about the butterfly in Butter’s logo. He explains that it has something to do with transformation. "Most folks recognize the beauty of seeing places and people transform, "he explains. "I bought this place with my father’s inheritance, and he wanted me to do something good with it. It’s been a transformation for my family, for me, and indeed, this whole neighborhood, to have a place that’s community-oriented. It’s all about finding support for each other. To be able to do that is a gift. It sure helps to have the good food, too.” 

Butter’s Buttermilk Biscuits 

Makes about 10 biscuits 

4.5 cups (22.5 oz) flour 

1/8 cup (1 oz) baking powder 

¾ teaspoon salt 

16 Tablespoons (0.5 lb) cold butter, grated (use the large holes on a cheese grater) 

2 eggs 

2 3/8 cups (20 oz) buttermilk 

 

Preheat convection oven to 325 degrees or regular oven to 300 degrees. 

 

·                Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a big bowl. 

·                Mix the chilled grated butter into the flour mixture. You can dust the butter in the flour mixture to make it easier to handle. 

·                Whisk the eggs and buttermilk together. 

·                Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the wet into it. Quickly stir the wet ingredients in and knead it a few times to pull it all together, but be careful not to overmix it. 

·                Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and pat it down into a rectangle about 2” high. Cut into rounds with a 3 ½” flour cutter (straight down, no twisting). 

·                Place biscuits on baking sheet covered in parchment paper so they just touch. Bake about 15-20 minutes in convection oven or 20-25 minutes in regular oven until they turn golden brown (do not overcook). 

·                Remove from oven, let cool enough to separate the biscuits, and enjoy! 

Week 29: Bella's Cafe

New Haven, Connecticut

By Amanda Balagur

 

For Rose Foote, owner of Bella’s Café, it’s more than just a cliché to say that cooking is in her blood. Her grandparents maintained separate restaurants in downtown Bridgeport, Connecticut, for decades: her grandfather came from Greece and established Nick’s Diner, while her grandmother came from Italy and established Paula’s Diner. Foote remembers watching her grandmother in the kitchen and helping her out by washing dishes. She also remembers that her grandfather insisted on feeding some of the local homeless because he felt that no one deserved to go hungry.

Foote’s parents took a more united approach. They established a restaurant together in 1962 in Trumbull, Connecticut, which is where they raised their kids. Their former customers still reminisce with Foote about her father Richie’s old-fashioned hot cinnamon donuts. Their restaurant was the only breakfast place in town, and Foote and her siblings often pitched in to help.

The funny thing is, Foote never really wanted to follow in the footsteps of her parents and grandparents. It wasn’t until she was about 25 years old and helping her mother out with a catering gig that she realized she wanted to be a chef. “Whatever was creative in me blossomed,” Foote remarks. “It was like a light bulb went off and I said, ‘Oh my god, this is what I want to do!’”

After a stint as an assistant pastry chef at Reader’s Digest, Foote worked on the line in the kitchens of several restaurants in southern Connecticut, learning to master her chosen trade. She was tough, like her grandmother, and enjoyed the challenge of experimenting with ingredients and creating new dishes. Eventually, she got tired of working for other people, and dreamed of opening her own restaurant someday.

Although Foote had never worked in New Haven, she often went there to dine. She was sitting on the patio of a restaurant on Whalley Avenue when she spotted the perfect space for her future café, right across the street. “I said, ‘I’d love a place like this,’” she remembers. Two years later, she bought the space she dreamed of owning and outfitted it with a functioning kitchen. In 2000, Bella’s Café was open for business for breakfast, lunch and brunch. These days, you’ll find a line out the door on the weekends for brunch, often with an hour-long wait.

Foote describes the food she serves at Bella’s as casual comfort food with a contemporary flair. She often does Southern-influenced cooking. Foote has always loved the New Orleans-style jazz brunch, and wanted to incorporate the food and atmosphere of the Big Easy into her own restaurant. “When I think of Southern, I think of breakfast. It’s comfort food,” she says.

The menu at Bella’s is seasonal and always changing. They serve breakfast all day during the week, including favorites such as Italian-style French toast and eggs benedict made with smoked pork. One of her best-selling items is shrimp and grits, served sizzling in a cast iron skillet on a wooden charger with a biscuit on the side. This dish was originally created as a special, but Foote added it to the regular menu based on demand.

And it’s easy to see why. The grits are made with cream, milk and butter – not water. They are heavenly, fluffy and rich. The base of the dish is chorizo smoked sausage sautéed with onion, combined with chicken stock, bay leaves and a few other ingredients. Shrimp get added to the chorizo base, and then the whole thing is spooned over the grits into the hot skillet, then topped with scrambled eggs. The result is a memorable dish that will spoil you for any other version of shrimp and grits on the eastern seaboard.

To find a biscuit she liked, Foote went from recipe to recipe. The version she makes is pure gold, as in: true buttery goodness. Her biscuits are high, with a tender interior that sops up the sauce of the shrimp and grits beautifully. But this biscuit can easily be eaten alone. It’s so moist and delicious, it’s like eating a stick of butter – in a good way.

The biscuit is often featured in specials, too, such as biscuits and gravy made with maple-pork sausage, or fried chicken on a biscuit. Bella’s recently featured a special with braised pork shoulder served over a biscuit with wild mushroom sauce, poached eggs and Tasso hollandaise. Foote’s inventiveness and love of breakfast food is obviously a major draw for locals, but she gets visitors from all over. Former students from nearby Yale and Southern Connecticut State University often reunite with their classmates at Bella’s over brunch.

While it may seem like a natural fit for Foote to own a restaurant, she doesn’t take what she does for granted. “I’m so blessed,” she says. “I’ve got so much joy. I love being here.” Once you taste Bella’s biscuits, you’ll feel exactly the same way.

Bella’s Buttermilk Biscuits

2 1/4 cups self-rising flour

1/2 cup cold butter

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

melted butter

·       Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

·       Measure flour into a bowl.

·       Cut the butter with a sharp knife or pastry blender into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Sprinkle butter slices over flour in a large bowl.

·       Toss butter with flour, then cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender until the mixture is crumbly and mixture resembles small peas.

·       Cover and chill 10 minutes.

·       Add buttermilk, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.

·       Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead 3 or 4 times, gradually adding additional flour as needed.

·       With floured hands, press or pat dough into a 3/4-inch-thick rectangle. Sprinkle top of dough with additional flour. Fold dough over onto itself in 3 sections, starting with 1 short end. Repeat entire process 2 more times, beginning with pressing into a 3/4-inch-thick dough rectangle.

·       Press or pat dough down to 1/2-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface; cut with a 2-inch round cutter, and place biscuits, side by side, on a parchment paper-lined or lightly greased jelly-roll pan.

·       Bake at 400° for 25 minutes or until lightly browned.

·       Remove from oven; brush with 2 Tbsp. melted butter.

 

 

Amanda Balagur is a freelance food journalist based in Boston. She recently got a master's in gastronomy at Boston University with a concentration in food history, culture and communications. Amanda also works as a freelance marketing consultant specializing in strategy, content management, copywriting and social media at Balagur Marketing.